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The app marketer’s guide to working with a mobile ad network

In comparison to their gaming counterparts, not many app advertisers have started working with ad networks, which makes this space especially lucrative for apps like education, travel, shopping, and entertainment that take advantage now. There are many advantages to incorporating ad networks into your media plan, which you can learn more about here. In addition to gaining a competitive edge over other apps in your category, running user acquisition campaigns on multiple mobile ad networks such as ironSource, is an excellent way to increase ROAS and scale. 

There are three steps to running a user acquisition campaign on a mobile ad network: getting your media plan together, setting up the campaign itself, and then optimizing the campaign. Read on to learn more about each step of the process.

1. Getting your media plan together

The first step to working with an ad network is setting a media plan. That means preparing the research and creating an initial plan for your app’s marketing strategy. Before going into the nitty gritty, it’s important to take note of what your competitors have already done and accomplished in this space. 

With mobile ad networks arriving on scene more than a decade ago, it’s likely that some of your competitors may have already run UA campaigns on ad networks. You can find these competitors through sources like App Annie, Sensor Tower, the app stores, and other intelligence services. Be sure to talk to your ad network partner to analyze the geos they’re targeting, the media sources they’re running on, and the creatives they’re relying on. 

Once you’ve chosen the best media sources and ad networks for your app’s UA strategy and analyzed the competitors in your space, there are a few last preliminary actions to complete on your checklist. This includes setting a ROAS goal, which is the amount of ad spend you want to recoup (check out our blog post or webinar on how to calculate a ROAS goal for your app). From there, you can determine your base bid. Once your checklist is complete, the next step is to actually set up your campaign.

2. Setting up your campaign 

Before you can actually launch your campaign, you should get to know the mobile measurement platform you’ll be using, in which you’ll need to fill in everything regarding your app’s campaign and attribution window - the amount of hours or days that an ad can get credited for an install after a user sees it. If you’ve only run campaigns on social and search channels, attribution platforms may be new to you, since social and search are typically self-attributing. However, mobile ad networks need third-party platforms to credit publishers and networks for the installs they successfully drove.  

Make sure to activate view-through attribution, which, in contrast to click-through attribution, ensures you are measuring your UA campaign by counting how many users install your app from the store after viewing your ad. This way you can make sure you are crediting the right ad network for the install. It’s also vital to keep track of who to show your ad to, based on who hasn’t downloaded your app, with a dynamic suppression list to avoid wasted ad spend. Lastly, make sure your post-install events are making it back to your ad network, so that you can get a deeper analysis of your campaigns’ quality performance. 

To optimize your ad performance from the start, have a set number of creatives that you are confident in and prepared to launch. Ultimately, you want to begin advertising with your best performing ads and it’s important to decide which ones before the launch date. You can test the performance of these ads on platforms like Facebook, and use the winners on the ad network.

Once all of this is turned and ready to go, you’re ready to successfully launch your campaign on the mobile ad network. The real optimization, however, will come after the first ad is shown.

3. Optimizing the campaign

As soon as your campaign is launched, you’ll begin seeing how well your creatives are increasing your IPM (installs per thousand ad impressions) and whether your bids are optimized towards your ROAS goal. From there, you will be more equipped to make decisions. 

Let’s start by discussing bid optimization. To better optimize your bids, utilize automated optimizers, such as ironSource’s ROAS optimizer. You can easily feed these tools your ROAS goals, which calculate the perfect bid for all of your apps and then update the bids automatically in real-time. Not only does this save you time and manual effort, but the optimizers generally deliver better results than most humans can manage - since they update thousands of campaigns to high degree of granularity. 

In terms of creatives, each ad network has its own benchmarks and best practices to optimize your IPM, so it's vital to constantly A/B test and refresh your creatives. Use in-ad data such as funnel analysis, time to engage, time to complete, and more to understand where users are dropping off to iterate your creatives and improve performance. For more about optimizing creatives, check out this eBook

Ultimately, you want to put yourself in the best position to drive quality traffic from your ad network campaigns. If you’re considering starting to work with an ad network, follow these three steps to break down the process, and get in touch with us to learn more

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